British 200m breaststroke record holder Kris Gilchrist, the man who inspired and drew Bath teammates Andrew Willis and Michael Jamieson to Olympic berths ahead of him and under 2:10 earlier this month, has announced his retirement.
It was one of the most excruciating moments of Britain's Olympic trials: after the Bath trio coached by Dave McNulty had picked up their medals, they were treated to a moment of poolside folly when the Olympic trials that demand utmost professionalism from swimmers, coaches and others was used as a training ground for rookie interviewer number umpteen.
Gilchrist was asked if he was pleased with the result. How gracious he was at a moment when his instinct might well have been to shove the microphone somewhere beyond the scan of the supertroupers trained on him. The Scot who developed into a world-class breaststroke ace under the guidance of French coach Fred Vergnoux in Edinburgh and Paris, said : "If it wasn't the Olympic trials I would be, but…". He went on to pay respect and heap praise on his two younger teammates.
Willis and Jamieson returned the compliments, Jamieson saying: "Chris has had an amazing career, I am really gutted for him tonight. He has been a great friend and mentor. We have had such a great experience down in Bath with him and our coaches."
A former world short-course champion, Gilchrist made his senior international debut in 2006, winning bronze medals at the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games for Scotland. In 2008 at Manchester he claimed the world short-course crown over 200m breaststroke.
"I still love the sport but my body won’t take it anymore,” said Gilchrist today. "I know that the time is right for me and I am confident it is the right decision. The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow are just a little bit too far away. I am happy to stop at a time when I still love swimming. I haven’t lost any passion for it and I certainly want to stay involved.
"My plan now is to get my level three coaching qualification as I really want to give something back to the sport I love. I’ve worked and swum with some fantastic people over the years and I’d like to thank all those who have supported me throughout my career."
Dave McNulty, Head Coach at British Gas ITC Bath and guide to Gilchrist for the past 18 months said: “Kris has had an outstanding swimming career both nationally and internationally over the years with some fantastic results.
“During his time at Bath ITC Kris has shown great professionalism and leadership. He has played a huge part in raising the bar here, setting high standards for the squad both in and out of the pool. He’ll be missed by all the swimmers here and we all wish him the best in his future.”
British Swimming’s National Performance Director Michael Scott also praised the Scotsman. "Decisions such as this are difficult and challenging but Kris should be proud of his many accomplishments in swimming at club, Scottish and British level, in particular winning the World Short course Championship in 2008.
"I would like to thank Kris for his professionalism and contribution to the sport in Scotland and Great Britain and am delighted that he will remain in the sport in the coaching capacity."
We look forward to hearing more from Gilchrist beyond the wash but still in the pool in the years ahead.